Australia is famous for beautiful beaches, warm weather escapes from Western winters, and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.
The Land Down Under has wide-open spaces, rugged mountain ranges and big cities to explore like Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, and Melbourne. In fact, the country that’s a continent pretty much has it all.
But to appreciate some of the incredile places in Australia, bolster your travel itinerary or bucket list with these best-kept secrets and hidden gems in Australia.
Karajini National Park has a wild, weathered landscape with plunging waterfalls, jade pools, and deep gorges that are easily explored from just beyond the car park. Located in Western Australia, in the Pilbara region, the landforms represent over two billion years of the planet’s geological history.
The creeks, waterfalls, and waterholes have crystal clear waters to paddle and splash in on a hot day, and a variety of walking trails from easy to challenging meander through some of the country’s most stunning scenery. Scale some of Earth’s oldest rocks and camp out at night under an outback starry sky.
The campgrounds in the park have excellent picnic tables and gas barbeques. The campgrounds give a base for experiencing some of Australia’s most exciting outdoor adventures.
Get to Karijini National Park with a scenic 17-hour road trip from Perth, or fly to the towns of Newman or Paraburdoo from Perth and drive for about two hours by car. Consider a 4WD vehicle to access all parts of the park.
Experience what may be the most unusual town on planet Earth with a visit to Coober Pedy in South Australia. Known as the “opal mining capital of the world,” most of the town is built underground in purposely-dug houses or in the beginnings of former mines. Long inhabited by the Aboriginal people, miners first came to the town in 1916 after the precious opal stone was discovered in the surrounding rocks. Because of the intense heat, many of the miners chose to live underground, and the practice still continues today.
Some of the buildings found underground are a book store, a bar, an art gallery, three churches, and hotels with opals embedded in the walls. The area doesn’t support much life, so the inhabitants built a “tree” out of scrap iron. In the summer, outdoor activities take place at night because of the extreme heat. One popular pastime is golf played with glowing balls.
The unusual town caught the attention of Hollywood, and a number of movies were filmed here including “Pitch Black” and “Red Planet.”
The southernmost point in Australia is located in Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria. It is a bit of a hidden gem, especially for those not from Melbourne. And not nearly as busy as a place like Phillip Island.
It also features stunning beaches, including Squeaky Beach which squeaks when you walk on it due to the sand particles moving against each other in a specific way.
There are also long-distance hikes around the promontory, great places to swim, amazing wildlife like the local Wombats and Emus, and stunning views from the many mountains in the park.
Located just off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island is a vacationer’s paradise with 63 pristine beaches, guided tours, and excellent accommodations. Affectionately called “Rotto,” the island was named by a Dutch explorer who first thought that the cute marsupials known as quokkas found all around the island were giant rodents. They’re still around today, and tourists like to take selfies with these friendly little animals.
Lazy days on Rotto are spent biking around the island to explore the beaches and bays, the unique flora and fauna, historic buildings, and the lighthouse. The island is car-free and easy to reach by ferry.
While most people only go to Kakadu National Park, there are plenty of other great places to visit in the Northern Territory. The town of Katherine is known as the place “where the outback meets the tropics.” Visitors come to Katherine to discover a region of gorges, waterfalls, and thermal springs. The nearby Nitmiluk National Park is home to the popular Katherine Gorge featuring walls of brown and red quartzite. Options for exploring the gorge include cruising, canoeing, or flying over it by helicopter.
Hiking the Jatbula Trail is a challenging way to explore the gorge, or visitors can choose a more luxurious way by staying at the Cicada Lodge.
Tom Curtain’s Kathrine Outback Experience and the Top Didj Aboriginal Cultural Experience gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the indigenous culture. Both are located near the center of town.
North of Perth in Western Australia, towering cliffs plummet 100 meters to the ocean below to create a dramatic coastline. Called the Kalbarri Cliffs, they begin at Red Bluff south of Kalbarri town and extend to the Kalbarri National Park. This national park site is free to visit with well-posted lookouts and pathways that allow safe exploration of the magnificent rugged coastline.
Natural Bridge and Rock Island at the southern end of the cliffs provide stunning coastal views a short walk from the car park. Marine life such as dolphins and migrating whales can be spotted from Natural Bridge between June and November. The solitary Rock Island can be likened to the 12 Apostles.
A walkway called the Birgurda Trail connects the Natural Bridge to Eagle Gorge for more breathtaking views. Nearby Red Bluff Beach is popular for swimming, fishing, and the white sandy beach contrasting with the rust-red rocks. There are also many other great hikes in the area.
Another hidden gem is Mungo National Park, New South Wales. It is a park that is rarely visited compared to many of the popular destinations in New South Wales, possibly because it is way south of Broken Hill, and also a long way west of Sydney.
It features stunning desert landscapes and has lots of campgrounds you are probably going to be alone in. The main reason to venture off the beaten track here is the ancient artifacts that date back some 50,000 years.
Visit enchanting Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia for boutique shopping, fine arts, and wonderful gastronomic experiences. Located in the heart of the opal industry, the shops sell the pretty milky stones from the mines.
Adelaide is Australia’s fifth-largest city and the largest by far in the sparsely populated state. Adelaide is often compared with Melbourne, but they are quite different cities.
With a stay in the city, visitors can enjoy the beaches, nightlife, and cafes. Outdoor activities around the city include traipsing through the surrounding wine regions of McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, and Barossa Valley and hiking the Mt. Lofty Ranges.
It takes all of a day’s drive to reach Adelaide from any other Australian capital. Adelaide’s airport has scheduled international flights.
A 1.5-hour drive north of Adelaide lies Lake Bumbunga, South Australia’s salt lake with its captivating bubble gum-pink shores. The lake is located between the farming locality of Bubbunga and the town of Lochiel where salt has been mined since 1881. Depending on the water’s salinity, the picturesque lake is known to change color from pink to blue or white throughout the year.
The lake draws a diverse crowd and is especially visited by photographers. Visitors can choose to stay in an eco-friendly “tiny house” near the lake. The off-the-grid accommodation is powered by solar panels and water is sourced from collected and stored rainwater. Mains electricity and water are available for backup.
With an overnight stay, guests will be able to photograph the lake at sunset and sunrise. There are several other attractions nearby to visit such as the Clare Valley wine region and the coastal towns of Moonta Bay and Wallaroo.
Situated at the junction of the Lane Cove Rivers and the Parramatta, a major commercial suburb, Cockatoo is the largest island in the Sydney Harbour in New South Wales. First used as a prison and later as a naval shipyard, the island is “Australia’s Alcatraz.” The prison was used for inmates transported to the Australian penal colony during the 19th century. As a shipyard, it serviced Australian and allied vessels during WWII. The island operated as a shipyard up until the 1990s.
Today, visitors can tour the intriguing old buildings still standing from the prison era to the industrial period. The landscape and views add to the island’s allure, and it’s now a popular attraction with heritage-rich camping accommodations, picnic areas, and waterfront restaurants. Guided history and chilling paranormal tours are offered, and concerts and seasonal events are held throughout the year. It’s an especially favored place to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks with tickets selling out months in advance.
Cockatoo Island is easy to get to by ferry, and accommodations include BYO camping, pre-pitched tents, and a few remaining timber cottages.
Spellbinding Baird Bay is a sleepy seaside village located in South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. The dramatic coastline is enhanced with a landscape of rolling hills, treeless plains, coastal shrubs, and wildflowers overlooking the Great Australian Bight. It’s a popular place to go fishing and is known for its whiting stocks. The waters are calm and well-suited for canoeing and kayaking.
The area is filled with fascinating wildlife, and it’s common to spot pelicans, wallabies, and over 200 species of birds. But the must-do activity in the area is swimming with the playful sea lions and dolphins out at Jones Island.
Facilities at Baird Bay include boat launches, local campgrounds, and luxury beach villas. Get to Baird Bay by car or fly to Whyalla, Port Lincoln, or Ceduna and rent a car there or opt for the Premier Stateliner coach service.
The vast wilderness called Arnhem Land is situated in the northeast corner of the Northern Territory. The landscape features rocky escarpments, rivers, plummeting gorges, and cascading waterfalls. The land is the traditional home of the Yolngu people, and permits are required for visitors.
A destination for the dry season, Arnhem’s coastline is mysterious and haunting with red earth, cerulean seas, and deep green woodlands. The area is roughly the size of Victoria and has fewer than 20,000 inhabitants.
Visit the art indigenous art center at the Injalak in Gunbalalya to marvel at the Aboriginal bark paintings and display of didgeridoo, wind instruments thought to be the oldest in the world. Injalak Hill, an ancient rock art site is nearby. Visitors can join a Yolngu cultural tour or take the interpretive walking trail. Fishing is also popular, and the local restaurants serve the freshest food imaginable.
It takes careful planning to visit Arnhem Land, but the scenic beauty and the human story told are well-worth it.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.